Three days before the new year, someone came to Locke unexpectedly.
"Princess Angelina, is that you?" Locke asked, puzzled as he looked at the gorgeously dressed, radiant and beautiful woman with flowing blonde hair. Initially, he wasn't going to address her as 'princess'. However, he quickly changed his mind, since he could detect a pressure near him.
Angelina's expression didn't change much at first, "You all may leave for now! I have something to discuss with Herr Locke," Angelina tilted her head and said.
Although it certainly looked like there was no one around him, a sudden burst of footsteps could be heard. As they gradually moved away, the pressure Locke felt also faded.
After there was no movement, Angelina's face relaxed, her beautiful eyes looked at Locke, causing a strange atmosphere to form around them.
This was Locke's tent, and they sat on the side of his bed and chatted. The tents of platoon jarls like Locke were very simple. Although they were independent tents, they had no extra furniture other than a bed and a table. They had to make do with what they had.
Then again, Angelina and Locke had done more intimate things. Sitting beside the bed with someone of the opposite sex, only gave her a slight blush.
"What brings you here?" Locke asked curiously. The precious Princess Angelina was strictly monitored in her every move. He never thought he would get to see her again until the war ended.
"It's been so long since I've seen you, can't I pay you a visit?" Angelina rolled her eyes. She was only 16, the prime age for her feelings to bloom. Not seeing him for half a month left her feeling very uneasy.
Angelina's playful answer warmed Locke's heart. Whatever sense of distance that they'd felt over that period and their disparity in status seemed to have disappeared.
"What's going on?" Locke raised his brows while looking outside. He was referring to the group of guards who were hidden from sight.
Angelina let out a depressed sigh, "These are the shadow guards my father sent to find me," Although Locke had never heard of them before, it wasn't too difficult to tell who they were or what they did.
This group of shadow guards was also unlucky. Two months ago, they were sent out to track Angelina's whereabouts. They were only able to keep up with her until the border of Shalor, but quickly lost her trail. When she entered the Morphey Forest with an escort, they were left completely clueless. The vastness of the Morphey Forest erased all useful tracks.
Only when Blood Red attacked Angelina and her encounter with Locke did they find more leads on her whereabouts.
What Locke didn't know was that during the days when he and Angelina lived in the Bering Mountains was there were three teams of shadow guards searching for their 'corpses'.
After Angelina was brought back safely by Locke, Kenzir reassigned the group to guard her.
Locke then made some small talk with Angelina about his parents. It was mostly a one-sided conversation. She seemed to be very interested in the trivial things that happened in his mundane life.
After that, Angelina also shared her recent experiences. She knew that Locke wasn't too interested in things like noble banquets, so she talked about other things, like recent decisions of the elite, orders issued by her brother Kenzir, and so on. She had also divulged a little bit about her daily life too.
Locke listened very attentively. The decisions of the elites would directly affect the lives of the soldiers, so it was imperative he paid attention to it.
"I'm also one of the leaders of Faustian's caster unit!" Angelina said to Locke eagerly.
Locke was still trying to process Angelina's last sentence. Kenzir had decided to start the siege of Audis after the new year. When he finally processed what she said, he gave her a look of surprise.
She seemed to love his reaction, pouting and proudly saying, "I will take care of you from now on!"
Locke had always been curious and awed by casters. He was deeply impressed by the spells cast all over the battlefield.
Now that Angelina was one of the leaders of the caster unit, her rank would be equivalent to a division jarl's. Her words to watch over him were not empty ones. In fact, she might be one of the most powerful elites in Faustian now.
Angelina, who had dozens of casters under her, seemed really domineering, but then she dropped the act, since she was not actually in command, but being protected instead. There were at least two mid-rank Lehrlings assigned to her safety.
Angelina also discovered that Locke had already advanced to the low rank. She didn't care and took it for granted. She didn't have much time to stay here. A princess who spent too much time in an ordinary non-commissioned officer's tent would cause a lot of gossip, especially among the nobles, who spread rumours like wildfire.
It was almost noon when Angelina left. The threatening feeling that had surrounded Locke disappeared too. Fortunately, the two of them were just talking and chatting in the tent, and did not do anything unusual, not that them eavesdropping was possible in the first place. Angelina was a princess anyway, and those who protect her dared not do something so audacious.
Though if they did, Locke would be in for trouble. Angelina spoke very intimately to him during this period, and anyone with a discerning eye could see the nature of the relationship between them.
Seeing Angelina leave, Locke discarded the notion of going for more practice, since there was not enough time left. He felt a little blank when she asked him to get a new set of armour and a sword.
His current armour was bestowed by the baron, which was much stronger and more gorgeous than the standard armour for platoon jarls he had before. He had fallen in love with its pale silver sheen, and wore it everyday. It wasn't too heavy; if anything, the weight was good exercise.
As for the sword, he asked Henry for one without spending money. Locke could tell that this longsword was pretty good, for it was definitely better than his previous one, being much sturdier and sharper.
Replacing a sword could only be done one of two ways: using his own money to purchase it from the baron's caravan, or exchanging merit for one.
It was a pity that Locke only had two hundred-gold bills now. He could only exchange these for money in the royal capital. He inquired about it in the caravan, but they told him that they couldn't accept it, because they had no way of verifying its authenticity. The only cash available now was Suzanne's two thousand silver thalers. Since it was a relatively large amount, they left it with Henry.
He could trust Henry to keep his money. He was a chief steward in the baron's caravan after all, and all it would take for Locke to withdraw it was one simple sentence.
But Locke didn't plan to spend it. The money could be taken back to improve the lives of himself, his parents and sister in the future. The two thousand silver thalers wasn't an exorbitant amount, but it wasn't meagre either. Depending on how they spent it, it could last them some time. However, what Locke knew his parents and sister would do was save most of it for his future marriage.
He still had some military merit left. Speaking of it, Locke hadn't checked his military merit since returning to the camp. The last time he met with Kenzir and Marmen, they encouraged him, but gave no concrete rewards so far. The two big shots probably wouldn't forget to give him military merit, which could be exchanged for money, equipment, potions and promotions. In Faustian's army camps, military merit, could be exchanged for almost anything.
In his first two years as a soldier, Locke was naive and foolish. Every time he earned military merit, he would immediately exchange them for money, which he would send back to his family. As he gained more insight about the workings of the military, he stopped making these fooling mistakes. Military merit was much more important than money. His promotion to a second-rate soldier last year and to a platoon jarl this year was all thanks to his merit.
Soldiers at the bottom could only rely on their own continuous accumulation of merit to progress. In the history of Faustian, many nobles had one thing in common with their ancestors: they were all soldiers.
Locke was eagerly anticipating finding out how much military merit he had now.
While it was still early, Locke took a trip to the supply camp. He looked at all the armours and weapons placed around the camp that once made him jealous. Though there was still a tinge of envy, it was far less than before. After, money wasn't an issue for him, and he should have quite a lot of military merit too. It wouldn't be too difficult to get anything he desired here.
When he reached the supervisor's office, a man wearing a black hat greeted him. He was the supervisor. Not only that, he was a relative of the baron and also his confidant.
Recognising Locke instantly, he smiled and greeted enthusiastically, "Jarl Locke, what can I do for you?"
"I want to find out how much military merit I still have," Locke said matter-of-factly.
The man looked surprised. Seeing Locke did not respond, he explained, "Don't you know, Jarl Locke? The records for platoon jarls and above are all with the division's logistics department. We only keep records for second-rate soldiers and below."
Seeing that Locke was still confused, the man continued, "The platoon jarl level is the highest level of combat power in our battalion. Each platoon jarl has an allocated quota of weapons and armour in the supply camp. If any of your equipment is damaged after a battle, you can replace it there for free."
Locke smacked his head, as he suddenly remembered why when he asked Henry for ordinary weapons and armour, he looked at him very strangely. Of course, a platoon jarl was able to get whatever he needed in the baron's supply camp!
The weapons and armour of the supply camp were of course much stronger than those in other places. How was it that Yoshk didn't say anything to Locke about it? Perhaps he thought Locke was already aware about it.
Given that he wasn't able to find out about his military merit, Locke immediately turned around and headed to the military department. After looking at the armour and weapons of the supply camp, he decided there wasn't any need to change anything, since it wasn't much better than what Henry had given him. Seeing this, Locke certainly gained some respect for Henry as a businessman. The items he had given him for free were worth around 150 silver thalers, which was roughly his earnings from his entire four years of military service.